Tag Archives: indigo

Other things

Dear readers, here is a little post I wrote and overlooked weeks ago, while I try to create some new posts 🙂

This is just a little round up of things at my house in the last few weeks, that aren’t especially crafty. I pruned the lime tree. Also the nectarine and the peach, but they are not fruiting! I used the sugar I had and made marmalade. Then later my parents were shopping and brought me more so I made a second batch!

I got a crisis call for support from someone new to town who needed seeds. Into the post!

Our suburb is showing the love and solidarity with rainbows. So I made this. The last two triangles are made from a friend’s dead jeans, given to me for reuse!

I opted out of the toilet paper drama in this country for the most part, with a reused squirt bottle and some dead t shirts. Thanks to the friends who posted about this and inspired me.

The slow conversion of indigo dyed fabric to hankies continues and was massively assisted by new ‘fine’ needles and a service of my sewing machine.

I mail ordered prepaid postage satchels when it became clear that I wouldn’t be seeing some people for a long while. I could not resist this Australia Post postcard. Although it depicts the biggest open cut mine in the hemisphere (apologies if some other horrible project has since overtaken it)–it has been made to look like a work of art. Many years ago I went there (Kalgoorlie, WA) with a friend on our way to Perth. I had not really understood what the SuperPit was even though I’d known many open pit mines, and when my friend asked where we used to live–I had to point into the hole that had swallowed the entire town, many other mines, the house we used to live in, and so much more…

Finally, success with (dwarf) dyer’s coreopsis!

And there you have my little photographic round-up…

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Mending

There have been times in this lockdown when it felt like I’ve mended every day. Sometimes just adding a few stitches so that the underwire doesn’t peek out of there, or stitching a button back on. Or re-sewing the seam that keeps Mum and Dad’s shopping bag in use instead of it hitting the bin. Or sewing the binding back onto the edge of the gardening gloves. Darning my beloved’s slipper sole…

This much mended shirt began as flour bags from the Fremantle Roller Mills, with a big red dingo as well as the name of the mill and the weight of the bag. That was a long time ago! The front edge had worn down to fraying and the corner of the pocket had become a hole. So I covered the worn edge with some handkerchief fabric complete with rolled edge hem–it was in the scrap pile so must not have made the final cut for a hanky!

For those wondering how the patches on the inside are wearing–here’s the inside. The madder dyed thread has been through many washes, some focused more on getting out the grime than protecting plant dyes.

The back is now so thin the patches from my mother-out-law’s kimono dressing gown can be seen right through it. But I love wearing this shirt… it feels so soft and lovely and is such a good gardening companion. I’m just going to wait and see when the time comes that I don’t want to mend it again.

Under that indigo dyed thread is a small patch taken from the scrap pile to reinforce the pocket corner. The time for this shirt has not come yet!

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Sashiko samplers

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While I had shingles earlier in the year I spent a lot of time doing very little, sitting in front of the TV for hours at a time too unwell to do much.  There were weeks when it was hard to choose what to watch and I couldn’t knit. Subtitles were too much.  I had so much trouble planning that I didn’t see one kind friend who offered because I couldn’t imagine being able to do any of the things we usually do together (or something!).  But eventually I remembered I had sashiko samplers I had bought in Japan, and I turned out to be capable of following the dotted line.

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I also braided my sashiko threads with some kind (online) help from India Flint.

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It’s quite inexpert sashiko but I found it very satisfying and spent hours and hours stitching this way without having to plan or decide on colours or anything.  Eventually I realised that I had bought two cushion cover blanks, not just random samplers.  So I decided I may as well turn them into cushions.  The op shop provided as always:

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(Eeek!  Not my thing)–covers stripped off and contents washed, I have two cushion stuffers without any new plastic being created. Polyester fibrefill is not good stuff–and this is my current solution to having more of it come into existence on my account. I’ve given up making cushions stuffed with fabric scraps as I did in the past because it just couldn’t be plainer that there are industrial scale amounts of this material already in existence and headed for landfill.  This is a small diversion. And yes, wash them in their covers or in a guppyfriend if you have one or in a bag to keep plastic waste out of the sewerage system.

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A little bit of simple stitching and–

 

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Indigo dyed Frankensocks

Once upon a time there was a lovely handspun Suffolk yarn dyed in a near exhausted fructose indigo dye vat. Or perhaps it was just that the dyer had exhausted her capacity to keep the vat reduced.

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It was paired up with some indigo-dyed merino-silk commercial yarn.  Here I am knitting at the Royal show.  Watching the ponies.

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I stopped with two legs knit because the Suffolk yarn for the feet was in the royal show. I started another pair of socks and this pair of legs sat on the top of a chest of drawers for some weeks.  Once I got to the point where I started knitting the feet, they went super fast, with a few long meetings and some TV watching.

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Here I am heading for a grafting moment at a concert at the Fleurieu Folk Festival.

And here are the finished socks!

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Nishijin Textile Centre and Aizenkobo Indigo Studio

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The Lonely Planet Guide did not make the Nishijin Textile Centre sound especially alluring, and nor did some of the promotional materials.  I decided to go anyway.

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There were some amazing fabrics and garments on display. The display itself was relatively small, though lovely–but the Centre was very popular–and clearly not because of the single room of displays upstairs which I had all to myself.  The main attraction seemed to be the souvenir shop, which was full of tourists from all round the world the day I was there. It had a wide range of items made with and decorated in beautiful Japanese fabrics.  There was also a working Jacquard loom, with a weaver demonstrating its operation on the main floor of the building, and with some explanatory signage about the long history of interaction between China and Japan in the matter of weaving.

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I took just two photos inside the building before seeing the signs banning photography and desisting.

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After the Nishijin Textile Centre I went to the Archaeological Museum, just a short walk away.  It was a small but impressive place, apparently run by a small group of enthusiasts.  Signs were mostly translated into English, which was a boon to me, so I spent a long time reading all I could.  I had already been to Nijojo Mae Castle at this point, and so had questions I was trying to answer.  The translations here were informative about the archaeology of Kyoto, but they did also suggest some of the ways Japanese and English differ.  I puzzled for quite a while over a ceramic object labelled as a “pillow”, wondering how something so small could be a pillow for anyone.  Eventually I realised this might be a literal translation of what in English would be a stopper or a lid for a jar or jug.

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Next I went to the Aizenkobo Indigo Studio, where master indigo dyer Kenichi Utsuki lives and works. It turned out that I had arrived at a time when he was not dyeing.  Rather, I arrived and was the only customer in the studio. Kenichi Utsuki showed me hos beautiful dyeing and the studio, complete with high end fashion garments and special orders hanging on racks. Friends, I was overcome with shyness at having the master dyer (and his wife) attending only to me, and deeply awkward about my lack of Japanese.  I tried to explain that I understood that he was an internationally famous dyer and that his work was complex, built on an extensive Japanese tradition (using only Japanese indigo and fermentation methods)–I am not sure that I succeeded in communicating this.  But I did spend quite some time with Kenichi Utsuki listening to him about his lifetime’s work and leafing though his photo albums, looking around in awe.  Even the house itself was rather amazing and had been in his family for generations. I could not bring myself to ask if I could take photos and so I have only the front door to show you and you will have to follow the link to see more.  I came home with a beautiful furoshiki and some sashiko thread dyed virtually black-blue.

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Afterward I walked for a long distance.  In Kyoto I was forever thinking that I wouldn’t walk as far as yesterday and would just catch a bus because of the heat.  but then I was constantly overcome by wanting to see something lying ahead, or wondering what was around the corner.  I was forever passing beautiful plants and unfamiliar styles of building. So I just had to keep walking and looking!

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Komebukuro Rice-Bags

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I am still in love with this traditional Japanese style of bag.  Having acquired Japanese fabric scraps in Japan, I made some more, combining recycled clothing (a red linen shirt from the op shop and a maroon sleeveless linen shirt worn very much by me since the 1990s became linings) with fabric I have dyed with indigo as well as all kinds of Japanese fabric scraps.

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I find this design very cunning, and in Japan, I was struck by the different styles that casings tended to take, with drawstrings travelling through casings that were quite separate from the main bag.  In the drawstring constructions I more often have encountered and created, the drawstring passes through a casing in the garment or bag itself.

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And there it is again.  I constantly find myself creating series, and I constantly find myself much more readily making scraps, remnants and recycled fabrics into projects rather than using untouched loveliness in my possession, as if it is too special and valuable to cut, even when it is a gift!  I’ll have to work on that, because of course I want people to use the things I gift them!

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Fabrics in Kyoto

I think regular readers will have worked out that there were some obvious reasons I saw textiles everywhere in Japan–after all, I was seeking them out! I must admit though–and I’ve already explained that my ignorance and lack of language are a limitation–that fabric in Kyoto seemed far more accessible than at home. I was really impressed by the range of scrap fabric and recycled fabric available, and the range of places it was for sale. My friend and I bought scrap packs at a high end Shibori store.  There were packs of scrap fabrics available on street stalls during the evening street parties that came with the Gion festival.  Kimono is a big business in Kyoto and no doubt especially during the Gion festival, when people clearly go out of their way to dress up and dress traditionally, and tourists often do so as well.

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This may be one reason that secondhand kimono are for sale in so many places. The amount of silk made into clothing in Japan (relative to Australia) might also account for the availability of bolt ends of kimono silk and for some of the scraps which seem to have been torn off when a hem was raised, for example. But to my ignorant eyes it also seemed there was a different kind of reverence for beautiful fabric and design. During the Gion festival when community treasures are on display, fabulous garments were among them.

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When the Gion floats were paraded through the streets, they were hung with amazing, and in some cases, ancient, tapestries and carpets, often imported (long ago and from far away).

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Here is another example.

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And another!  It was amazing! I had been watching some of the floats being assembled out on the streets (remember the temperature is 39C or above every day at this stage), visited them on display once complete and seen the Gion Bayashi musicians rehearsing in them. Then we saw them lifted, pulled or wheeled through the streets on one of the two parade days. To see them all was extraordinary–each with a complex history and a heavy freight of symbols.  How hard it must have been to be pulling them through the streets–some of them weighing tonnes and with antique wooden wheels, being kept on track by a wooden chock dextrously applied as the wheels turned, and cornering without steering by use of wet bamboo slats and brute strength.  Sweaty work even for the very committed.

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But wait, there’s more.  I’d researched some things prior to departure and understood Nomura Tailor was not to be missed. The main store was on the big shopping strip of Kyoto (the Rundle Mall of Kyoto for local-to-me readers). It looks small here but there were four, or perhaps five, floors!

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I was entirely unsure whether it was acceptable to take photographs, and found myself in someone’s way no matter where I stood on any floor with a small reprieve on the top floor where haberdashery was for sale. I was utterly embarrassed!

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Here was for sale every kind of cloth. Every colour of linen.  Lots of cute prints (I now understand a little more about the cute aesthetic in Japan, but not a whole lot)! In the image above you can see an entire display of Marimekko. I have never seen so many Liberty prints outside a Liberty store. And so on (remember, this is only what I could recognise). It was overwhelming. I try not to buy new stuff as a general rule–but I really wanted to buy here and could find no way to make a decision about where I would stop if I started. I came back on a second day to see if I had more judgment or perhaps it was less crowded.  I still could not bring myself to buy fabric, overwhelmed by how I would ask for it, not understanding how to initiate a purchase, not wanting to hold up the queue, and in general feeling all heffalump in a very organised and efficient space in which I was unable to grasp the key organisational and efficiency principles. I bought some braid, some Japanese zippers and some sashiko sampler packs. The difference between buying fixed items and negotiating yardage is profound, or at least it felt that way to me on the day!

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The sashiko samplers turned out to be cushion covers but only the shape of the fabric and the pictures with the Japanese instructions inside allowed me to work this out.  I became ill a week or so after returning and did a lot of stitching!

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None of these was the highlight for me. The highlight really was going to a shrine sale the day we left.  We went to the flea market, and it was immense.  It was not a fabric sale–pottery, tools, metal, ready to eat food, brushware, vegetables, pickles… just abut everything!  It was over 40C that day and I inhabited a fantasy that I could look around and come back to things sighted earlier.  Oops! That is one thing I do regret.  Here was every kind of fabric, new and second hand. New garments and second hand garments. Second hand sake bags.

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Sacking, advertising materials on fabric (as far as I could tell). Cheap mass produced stuff. I bought what turned out to be strips from the ends of bolts (lengths?) of white silk kimono fabric. Then there were so many second hand fabrics whose origins I could only guess.

There were plant dyed clothes, and while indigo was prominent some were dyed with nettles, cedar bark or wormwood (that is what I could understand at any rate–)

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There was vintage clothing and fabric in every stage from well preserved to utterly disintegrating and in every stage of being mended from a patch here or there to rags stitched together–the boro tradition.  There were also many stallholders converting scraps of beautiful silk or vintage indigo dyed fabric into small items of loveliness, honouring them by transforming them.

I have read about boro and seen images, and read its history.  But while some of these items spoke of thrift and long wear, some were so ragged and so much mended that I was confronted by a sense of grief and awe for the people whose suffering and resilience created these clothes and cloths. While they now sell for a good deal of money (which does not go to anyone who used them), these items speak of the sheer poverty and difficult lives as well as speaking of the diligence, skill, love and care that must have gone into them.

In the end, I felt as though the flea market was an education in the life of everyday people through textiles. The museums I visited focused on things of high quality and amazing craft and design skill (as museums often do). Yet, this means museums often tell the stories of the wealthy and powerful, even when it is their clothing that is on show. At the flea market, the incredible effort that went into staying warm and covered for so many people who made that wealth possible was on show instead.

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Tuffsock Knitting: Indigo dyed Suffolk

This post is part of the Tuff Socks Naturally project, an open, collaborative project exploring more sustainable alternatives to superwash and nylon in sock yarn. You can join in on the discussion on this blog or on the blog of the fabulous Rebecca at Needle and Spindle or on instagram using the hashtag #tuffsocksnaturally.

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You may remember this yarn.  The fibre is Suffolk, one of the traditional sock knitting Downs breeds, in this case from Kangaroo Island, off the coast of  South Australia. I dyed it in a fructose based indigo vat as flicked locks, then carded and spun it three ply with a tight twist.  

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I am not sure that this yarn will work for everyone.  It is not silky soft, and the factors that make wool comfortable for one person and prickly to the next person are very individual. On the other hand it is robust, springy and feels resilient–I love that kind of springiness in  a sock personally.  So I had a conversation with a couple of friends about this issue and settled on one who was delighted at the prospect when she had the chance to hold it in her hands.  It was midwinter here so she received these socks gleefully!

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I have had trouble capturing the blue in photos.  It’s truest in the top picture of the wound ball.  I think these will be very robust and very warm socks and I’ll have to wait to see how the reviews from the recipient pan out!

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Komebukuro bags

It all began with a visit with friends, who took us for a trip through part of Tasmania, months ago.  We went to a country market and right beside it was Wafu Works. What a place!  Full of all kinds of Japanese paper, textiles and tools. I ended up with some thread an sashiko needles, and bought a kit to make a rice bag with some gift money… Indigo dyed fabrics on the outside, a red lining and a drawstring cord.

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I was so intrigued.  I learned a new stitch and a cunning construction. I loved the vintage fabrics.  You know what happened next, right?  I paired the leftover fabric with some of my own indigo dyeing, and cut up a mauve linen shirt I remember buying about 16 years ago for the lining, and pieced the scraps together…

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In the end I made three, and I’m now itching to make more…

 

 

 

 

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Indigo dyed sock spinning

Friends, I have not been keeping up with my blogging. I apologise. Life in my day job has been challenging this last year, but change is coming and perhaps we will see more of each other in the not-too-distant. This not keeping up means I have crafting projects that happened some time ago that you have never seen.  Here is one of those projects.

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This post is part of the Tuff Socks Naturally project, an open, collaborative project exploring more sustainable alternatives to superwash and nylon in sock yarn. You can join in on the discussion on this blog or on the blog of the fabulous Rebecca at Needle and Spindle or on instagram using the hashtag #tuffsocksnaturally.

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I am still working with Suffolk fleece, and I have been really keen to dye some with indigo.  I finally gathered up my nerve and tried refreshing my indigo vat over a long weekend.  And, success!!! In order to conserve dye and because the Suffolk is robust, full of vegetable matter, dirty even after washing, and hard to felt, I decided to flick card the locks prior to dyeing. That is what you can see in the top image. When I was able to achieve that deep blue in the picture above (the photo colour is not perfect–but this is NOT pastel blue), I felt no regrets.

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Then, to the drum carder.  No felting at all despite the challenging-to-wool alkaline environment of the vat followed by a lot of rinsing. Now the image below shows the colour most accurately. Colour me extremely happy about this yarn.

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My previous sock spinning efforts had persuaded me that I was not getting enough ply twist to create a robust sock yarn.  When I bought my spinning wheel, I decided to invest in a high speed head as well as two interchangeable whorls.  I was experiencing confidence that I would be spinning well into my future and want to use the wheel to its maximum capacity.  Since then, the place I bought that wheel, then the only spinning wheel seller in the city outside my Guild (which sells second hand) has closed. I’ve used everything that came with the wheel with only one exception, so that was a good call. Now to use the last accessory: the high speed head that would make it easier to get serious amounts of twist into my yarn even on evenings of weary spinning and distracted plying.

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Well, here is that yarn all wound up and ready to knit, waiting its turn in the knitting queue!  Just between me and you… as I write it has made it onto the needles and I’ve had the all-important conversation with a recipient who feels no reservation about this not-Merino-soft, local, plant dyed, single breed yarn.  Over a hot chocolate and chat tonight she took one look, squeezed the sock-in-progress and said YES!

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